Friday, December 28, 2007

The Missing Nokia Video: Web 2.0

The Nokia video that showed up about a month ago and then was mysterously removed from YouTube has shown back up. I have the words posted on the initial post on the video and I have embedded it below. It is hosted by a French site, let's hope this time it stays up.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

2008: Five Trends in EdTech

When I started thinking about what 2008 could mean to Educational Technology, I began writing down trends and ideas that are expanding at a rate that they will cast a net over the entire educational community. A net so big that education won't be able to ignore, regardless of the distance that some decision makers have from the classroom.

1. Low Tech Presentation - High Tech Delivery:
- 2007 saw the explosion of video on the web, with YouTube and other sites providing a platform for anyone and everyone to post video to the Internet. Some of the best videos I saw that related to education and educational technology were the simplest in production, but used the power of the Internet to gain a broad audience. I'd like to give big kudos to Lee LeFever and the CommonCraft Show for their series of videos dealing with Web 2.0 topics. A white board, hand drawn pictures on paper, a few printed screen shots and a dry erase marker equals one pretty powerful series of videos. I'd also like to mention educational specific sites like Next Vista for Learning, UStream and TeacherTube for providing educational specific space in this area.

2. Applications Are Personal and Connected:
- The war between Microsoft and Google has started and it starts in a different space than "Googlezon" predicted, but it is very real and the outcome is the same. Bill Gates, you lose! Who wants to buy Microsoft Office for $500 or even the Students and Teachers Edition for $145, when I can use Google Docs and Spreadsheets for free, have my documents available to me where ever there is a computer with a connection to the Internet and I can share my documents and collaborate with anyone around the world with a few clicks. This is a no-brainer. Besides Google Docs and Spreadsheets, there are other free online applications that will make it easier for students and teachers to tap into the power of the Internet and Web 2.0. There are too many applications to list here, but the boundaries have been completely blurred and are non-existent.

3. Broadening Perspectives:
- Net Neutrality is a big issue, so big that it can't be ignored and will make it difficult for the big telecoms from trying to impose a 'packet shaping' pricing scheme on the consumer. Having said this, free services like Skype and others will increase the amount of real-time collaboration that occurs between companies around the world and this will quickly flow down to education. Take a look at Vicki Davis' 'Flat Classroom Project' as a great prototype in this regard.

In a more global political perspective, closed networks in countries like China and Iran, will need to open themselves up to information from beyond their borders in order to survive. Having the 2008 Olympics in Beijing will mandate the poking of a large hole in the 'Great Firewall of China.' Let's hope that the hole is large enough that it cannot be easily patched once it has been opened. We already receive reports and blog posts from inside of China, including Jeff Utecht's "The Thinking Stick" blog.

4. Better Plumbing:
- Broadband connections are increasing their bandwidth and getting cheaper, this encourages more families to bring broadband access into their homes. As part of our Digital Bridge program, we provided 25- 9th graders with free Internet access from San Bruno Cable Television. The service normally costs $30 a month and students are selected based on need, which is determined by 'Free and Reduced Lunch Eligibility.'

The amount of 'free' wi-fi access is also expanding, as businesses, cities and other civic entities are providing no-cost access. In our area, all of the libraries in San Mateo County provide no-cost wi-fi access. All of the Panera Bread stores nationwide provide free Internet access. There are also websites that will give you the locations of free wi-fi connections in the local area, through "WiFi Free Spots."

5. Opening the Door for All:
- The traditional barriers to entering the digital world are beginning to fall. The price of small PC's are lower than the newest iPod. The low cost PC's I blogged on last week have definitely reduced the cost of entering the digital world for everyone. Even if you don't have a PC, cell phones are beginning to offer many of the same functions of standard PC's . iPhones and the upcoming 'Android' open source cell phone platform from Google will provide most of the functions found on a standard PC. There are also low cost desktop units in the $200 range running a version of Linux, (gOS or Ubuntu) which has a graphical user interface similar to that of Windows or Mac OS X. The other cool thing with most open source operating systems is that they will typically run on fewer system resources than the top of the line Windows or Macintosh.

What is the net effect of these trends? Easier, cheaper and more equitable access to all the people and information in the world. How does this change education? The world becomes our classroom. Collaborating with someone in China becomes as easy as collaborating with someone in the next town. Our schools and our homes have access to the information in every library on the planet. Individuals can be heard and seen and have their ideas rolled into the collective knowledge of the society. The real question becomes is: Will schools and education in general take advantage to the greatest reservoir of information on the planet? Or, will fear and shortsightedness win out and deprive our students of this vast amount information and the ability to become 'global citizens?' I hope we can create a system where students have access, yet have the skills to discern fact from fiction.

What are you willing to do to make this happen??? Comment and let me know!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Transitions: How Soon?

Over the past few months, I have written here and read in many, many other places about some of the transitions that are inevitably going to take place in education and the role that technology will play in these transitions. While many of these discussions have been hazy and lacked clarity as to the precise direction these transitions will take, there are some very definite clues as to what the final result will look like. The four micro-laptops on the market now; The XO Laptop, the Asus Eee PC (Which I blogged on last week), the Zonbu, and the Classmate PC. Dean Takahashi of the San Jose Mercury did a review of these devices on Christmas Eve. 2007 has also seen the proliferation of cell phone technologies where the iPhone and the upcoming 'Android' platform from Google will allow cell phones to act more like computers than ever before. Amazon introduced the 'Kindle Reader' which provides a platform to read books.

The flip side to all of this is that I hear complaints annually from teachers, students and their parents about the size and weight of text books. There are some English Literature Anthologies I have seen over the past few years that are well over 10 pounds in weight. The cost of these text books are also rising significantly, with many of these books are now approaching the $100 a piece range. So, a student that is taking five 'academic classes' (English, Science, Social Science, Math and World Language) the school is investing close to $500 in text books and the students are looking at back packs that are approaching the 50 pound range. We can deliver the same content in a richer, more interactive way through one to one laptop initiatives, which several states are in the process of doing. (Another Mecrury News article on Prediticions for 2008 and 1 to 1 initiatives.)

So, when will we reach the 'Tipping Point?' The point in which schools nationally and internationally will provide mobile computing devices for students and allow them to connect wirelessly to the Internet at school. When will we allow students to take these devices home and connect to students around the corner and around the world? Increasing their personal voice and creating a truly interactive educational system.

Costs for schools and textbook publishers will drop significantly as economies of scale come into play for production. People bring the damage argument into play, where they talk about the cost of repairs and damage that students will place on the devices. I see students lose books every year and pay several hundred dollars in book bills, what's the difference whether it is a book or a small computer?

I don't think there is a question whether this transition is going to take place, the question is when? Is 2008, the year when this transition begins to take place? Stay Tuned.... I'll be doing my part from the electric pulpit!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Asus Eee PC: A Little Wonder

I had read some of the accounts of Asus' new Eee PC, but until you actually hold one in your hand and play with it for a few minutes, do you realize what an amazing little computer, and I do mean computer, it is.

I had one of my adult students bring one of these into my classroom yesterday and I was BLOWN AWAY! This unit has the potential to make 1 to 1 computing in education a reality.

First, the unit uses a form of Linux as it's operating system and it's folder organization makes the user interface very friendly. There is no initial training necessary.

Secondly, it has preloaded many different applications to allow the user to many different things from the first boot. Open Office and Skype are pre loaded. There are links to the Google Applications, instant messaging, e-mail and Internet radio applications.

Third, the hardware necessary to be a cool global student is all there. There are stereo speakers, a web cam and a microphone built into the screen. There are two USB ports on the side to bring in additonal media or attach a mouse so you don't have to use the touch pad.. The image quality and color is very good, which makes the screen very readable. The other thing I liked was that it had external VGA , headphone and mic ports to allow for the connection of those devices. All of this is packed in a 7" unit weighing about 2 pounds. The smallness of the keyboard and touch pad are a little tough, but I was able to type on it with my large hands.

Check out this video (about 12 minutes!) that puts the EeePC through its paces...

I could see having an online or flash drive presentation ready to go and walking in with one of these units and connect to an LCD projector and speakers and be on the roll. The small size and portable nature of the device, will make it a favorite for students.

I like this unit so much, that I want to go and buy one now... and I just might depending on how Christmas goes. If there was someone I was considering a starter computer for... this would definintely be the unit I would recommend.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Students 2.0 - A New Voice for the Silent Majority

A new site launched the other day that has the potential to create quite a buzz around the edublogosphere. Students 2.0 is a site that is going to give several student bloggers from around the world the ability to reach out to a students around the world and "start the conversation," which is really Web 2.0 is all about.

Here is a video of the new Students 2.o site.

Students 2.0 Launch Teaser from Sean on Vimeo

Saturday, December 01, 2007

New Google Tools for 2008?

The Google Tool Box has just gotten a little fuller with the anticipation of the inclusion of JotSpot, wiki tool that Google acquired last year. It looks like the new JotSpot will replace or enhance the current 'Google Page Creator' and allow individual users or companies to build out their own sites with custom domain features. This is starting to sound a little more like an online version of 'Joomla' than a wiki tool, but it does look like it is going to be the container that the rest of the Google Apps can 'live in.' In the two different articles, there was a fair amount of supposition as to how and when Google rolls out all of these tools, but both expected there to be a big move towards integrating 'Google Gears' (offline use of web applications) in the new and improved Google/JotSpot wiki too.

Google has also recently acquired 'Grand Central,' a company that is working on a new cell phone tool that will allow users to greatly reduce the number of 'separate connections' users would have to have at any time. What does this mean? You will soon be able to manage all of your technology devices through your cell phone. Want to see all of the things Grand Central can do? Click here! This connected to Google's new Android mobile phone platform will make cell phones the way most people will access their 'digital assets.'

What does this mean for education? It really means that the tool that is ubiquitous to all high school and middle school students, the cell phone, will be the connecting device for all of a person's digital assets. This will allow all students to be connected to every piece of media instantaneously and will dramatically lower the point of entry to the information age for all students. Talk about leveling the playing field? Absolutely!

I was fortunate enough to be in Monterey last weekend at the CLHS/CUE conference and listen to Will Richardson speak. He did much of his usual presentation regarding blogs and wikis, but added in a section about Cell Phones and 'Open Phone Tests,' which he had blogged about last week. Then I remembered, especially since I had recently seen it on HBO, the prominent role cell phones and text messaging played in "The Departed." There were at least two scenes where either Matt Damon or Leonardo DiCaprio used their cell phones to text message their superiors during tense situations. The video below is one of those situations. This is only the first part of the scene.... just after this scene, Matt Damon text messages, without looking at the key pad at all, Jack Nicholson's character to let him know there is a police informant in his group.

So, where do you think cell phones are going? Should we start the process of integrating them into our schools as tools that allow students to create and have access to a rich supply of media that can enhance the teaching and learning process? I'd like to hear your comments!